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This past week I was able to attend a workshop hosted by BOLD, a student-run strategic communications agency at Florida International University. The workshop focused on personal branding and how important it is for professional development.

Regardless of your industry, knowing your interests, passions, and how they correlate with your career goals is vital. It is the best way to make sure that what you can offer to an employer is immediately obvious. No company wants an employee who is only in it for the money. They want to know your personality and work ethic are a good fit for their organization.

Once you know how to define your interests and goals, the next step is how to portray those with your online and offline presence. Online presence is more than your social media, though that is a part of it. It also includes what others post about you and any other way that you are discoverable on the internet. To evaluate your online presence, Google yourself. If you are satisfied with the results, that's great, and if not, start working on creating an image that reflects how you want to be seen.

Clean up your social media. If you want to keep your social media public, which some employers appreciate, make sure it is not only family-friendly but also shows your interests and involvements. Highlights are a great way to show what activities you are involved in academically, professionally, and what you do in your spare time. You can choose to post strongly political content, but keep in mind that some recruiters or employers may be turned off by that. 

LinkedIn is one of the best ways to curate your personal brand. Choose a color or style you identify with and use it in your header, resume and cover letter. Take a headshot that shows your most open and friendly smile. Make sure you complete every part of the profile to fully show off your achievements and post and share relevant articles and tidbits about your industry and professional life. Consider meeting with a career coach or adviser to have them review and give you tips on improving your LinkedIn. 

Offline, make sure every professional you speak to gets a great first impression of you. At interviews and meetings, dress for the job you want, be conscious of how you speak and interact, and try to smile at everyone.

It may sound like a personal brand means a squeaky-clean, unrealistic version of yourself, but the key is to portray yourself in the best way possible. If you like to drink or partake in other questionable activities, employers do not want to see it- save that for your friends and personal life. On the other hand, if you love design, show that on your social media and your resume. Personal branding is all about highlighting the best and most interesting aspects of your personality.

Maria Duque is a senior at Florida International University majoring in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications with a minor in Marketing. She is also a student in the Honors College at FIU. She is interning at rbb Communications as a digital intern, and is the Director of Accounts at BOLD FIU, a student-run strategic communications agency. She loves culture and literature, helping people and making change, so she is determined to find a career that will allow her to integrate these interests. Her favorite project is running a bookstagram account where she reviews and recommends books (linked below).
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